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First Ladies Influence Image

Education. (2013) Two panels on First Ladies, including the historical perspectives on First Ladies and the White House perspectives on recent First Ladies.

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02:15:00

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Channel 17 (141 MHz)

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ac3

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704

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480

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Us 14, Washington 14, Mrs. Bush 11, Jackie Kennedy 6, Laura Bush 6, Mrs. Reagan 6, Mrs. Obama 6, America 5, Mexico 5, Jacqueline Kennedy 4, Mrs. Clinton 4, Dolley Madison 3, United States 3, Obama 3, George W. Bush 3, Johnson 3, Mary Todd Lincoln 3, Mrs. Kennedy 3, Martha 3, Roland 3,
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  CSPAN    First Ladies Influence Image    Education.  (2013) Two panels on First Ladies, including  
   the historical perspectives on First Ladies and the White...  

    February 23, 2013
    7:00 - 9:14pm EST  

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own agenda. >> so much of influence, it would be a shame to waste it. >> i think they serve as a window on the past to what was going on with american women. >> she becomes the chief confidante. >> many of the women who were first ladies were writers. >> they are in many cases more interesting as human beings than their husbands, if only because they are not defined and limited by political ambition. >> and dolly was socially adept and politically savvy. >>dolly madison loved every minute of it. mrs. monroe hated it. >> she warned him, you can't rule without including what women want and have to contribute.
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>> there was too much looking down and i think it was a little too fast. not enough change of pace. >> she is probably the most tragic of all our first ladies. they never should have married. >> she later wrote as a memoir that i myself never made any decisions. i only decided what was important and when to present it to my husband. you stop and think about how much power that is, it is a lot of power. >> part of the battle cahill against cancer is the fight the fear that accompanies the disease. >> she transformed the way we look at these bugaboos and made it possible for people to survive and flourish. i cannot know how many
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presidents have that kind of impact on the way we live our lives to regret smocking around the white house grounds, i am reminded about all the people who lived there before and particularly, all of the women. >> "first ladies, influence and image."monday night at 9:00 p.m. eastern on cnn, c-span radio and scheming live at cpspan.org. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2013] >> i am the president of the white house historical association. welcome to the new public home, the david m. rubenstein center for white house history. in a recent arrangement with the national trust preservation, which owns this decatur house complex, the association is now co stewards of this historic site for 30 more -- for 30 or
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more years to come. first ladies, influence and image is a partnership project with our good friends at c-span. i would like to thank our colleagues there. if they would wave, i would like to acknowledge them. the co-chief operating officer, vice president of programming, and the executive producer for the first lady series. we appreciate their enthusiasm for a subject that rarely receives the attention it deserves. as you will see in your program, listed on c-span's website, the series will be a comprehensive visual biography. over the course of 35 shows in
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prime time on monday nights each first lady will get her 15 minutes of fame and many will actually get 90 minutes. tonight is a special kick off for the series and we are so pleased that our guest here in washington and those at homes from coast to coast are joining us for this moment. we have expert panelists here to enlighten us. i will introduce them in just a moment. but first, we have a special message from first lady michelle obama that we would like to share. >> hello everyone. i am pleased to kick off this series d telling the lives of america's first ladies. in the coming weeks you will have the chance to learn about the stories, achievements, and legacy of these truly a remarkable women. as you watch i am sure you will begin to see why i am so honored and humbled to follow in their footsteps.
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working on causes ranging from the trustee to women's rights to environmental stewardship, each of these would then left their own indelible stamp on the white house and on our nation's history. like them i found that this role offers an extraordinary opportunity to give back and make a real and lasting difference in people's lives. for me that has meant help our kids lead healthier lives, working to get our military families the benefits and support they earn, opening the white house to as many people as possible, and encouraging all of our young people to achieve every one of their dreams. no matter what causes we take on as first ladies we have all shared the singular experience of meeting people from every corner of this country and seeing firsthand the character, courage, and spirit of our fellow citizens. that is the true blessing of being first lady.
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that is why i do my best to live up to the example of the women who came before me and the people that i need every day. folks who work so hard and contribute so much to this great country we call home. >> our panelists may come and join us. we are so grateful for mrs. obama taking the time to wish us well and offer her reflections on the role of the first lady. they will be eliminated by those we have gathered here today. -- illuminated by those we have gathered here today. later we will bring you a first- person point of view from within the walls of the white house itself.
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our first panel will be moderated by steve scully. mr. scully is c-span's senior executive producer and political editor. since 1981 he has been responsible for coronary -- for coordinating all aspects of c- span's programming, c-span.org, and c-span radio. elected by his peers from the white house press corps, he is the former president of the white house correspondents association in 2006 and 2007. he currently serves as a waca board member. joining steve on stage, we have edith mayo. she's the curator at the national museum of american history. her books include "the smithsonian's book of first ladies.:"
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rosalyn terborg-penn is an author focusing on the american women's history. her books include african american women and the struggle for the boat, 1850-1920. she is a university professor and has founded the association of black women historians. finally, we have william seale. he is a great friend of the association.
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he is editor of white house history, the award winning journal of white house historical association. [laughter] he is also a ham. [laughter] you will indeed received a copy of the journal at the end of the program. he is also author of "the president's house." it is my great pleasure to turn it over to steve scully. >> we want to thank decatur house, our partners for the project. our panel here, these of the people that have been the guiding force behind this project. thank you for being here. i want to begin with you, why study these first ladies? why these women important to
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understand and know? >> they are extremely interesting because they are the ones closest to the president. we all say "if i could have only been there." well, they are. they are wonderful observers and also make a difference. >> edith you have studied the first ladies. from martha washington to the turn of the century into the 20th century, how did it change over that hundred 25 years? >> to begin with, nobody thought the first lady was going to do anything. i think that one of the things that is very interesting is that the white house, or the executive mansion in new york and philadelphia, provided a situation where you had the president's home and his work
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place both in the same place. martha becomes a social partner and hostess for the nation to her husband. abigail is a political partner to her husband. having those two rules established, the women who follow can merge or change or advance one or both of these aspects. dolley madison combined them. then you have a position that is very visible both at home and to visiting diplomats. it has become more visible, more activist, and the technology has changed the coverage of the first lady's role. >> during this time period, which first lady made her mark? who had the most influence?
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>> in the 19th century, i cannot pick one. let me take two? dolley madison, because she can set you -- she conceptualizes first lady. she is the fourth president's wife and only the first first lady. she is in the white house in the beginning and seems to enjoy all of the activity. i think she personified that. after she is long gone, they considered her first lady. i think she is significant. i also like mary todd lincoln. she has had a bad rap. the movie is fiction. even though some of it depicted her. she was of very influential woman in terms of her husband's feelings about slavery.
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she comes with an abolitionist mind. she also worked in the community among the free blacks in particular, of raising money for the downtrodden in the city. and during the war she was a volunteer nurse. so what can i tell you? i think she really personified a lot of the things we think of today as the role of the first lady. >> who enjoys the of first lady the most? if you want to use the word "detested," who would you put on that list? >> julia grant. suddenly she had a pedestal to be on and she absolutely adored it. she loved it and try to persuade him to run for a third term. he didn't, she didn't like it. she tells how they got on the train to leave washington and she fell and wept and wept.
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she claimed her place in later life and would come back in great glory to the white house. i do not know if anyone hated it. mrs. franklin pierce came in under horrible circumstances, having lost two sons. one of the way to the white house. -- one in a train wreck on the way to the white house. she was a pretty good politician and she was as smart lady and was involved in political things that she just did not have the heart for it. at one point she fell in love with jefferson davis's two year old child. and then he died.
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that happened again to her. i would say she is a candidate for not liking it, jane per se. -- jane per se. -- jane pierce. >> supposedly she fainted when she heard her husband was a nominee for the presidency. that would give you some idea about her feelings of being in politics. then she had this horrible tragedy that she never recovered from. >> i already mentioned dolly madison. in the early part of it she enjoyed her role as first lady. >> i agree with that. >> she was voluptuous and laughing and painted up.
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and he was a mousy little man. he was quiet and a genius. she absolutely adored him. they were inseparable. a lot of it was taking up things he couldn't do. >> she was his pr person. if that position had existed at that time. she loved doing that. she loved presenting herself as "queen dolley." the republican queen with a small "r." i think she is thoroughly enjoyed her roles. >> we learned that jackie kennedy was the first one to have a press secretary? >> no, i think it was edith roosevelt that had the first one.
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>> that was for her specifically? >> the series is titled "influence and image." let me ask you about the influence these ladies had on their spouses. who were among the most influential? >> mrs. tax -- mrs. taft was very influential. i suppose mrs. madison would be one. another one was mrs. hayes from ohio. she was not only be loved by the american people but she had a big influence on him. >> you talked about the image earlier. which first lady was most concerned or consumed with her image? >> i do not think she was consumed with her image but she certainly image hurt us and's presidency -- imaged her husband's presidencey, and that
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was dolley madison. she conceptualize the white house as a stage on which her husband can conduct politics and diplomacy and which she can present herself as first lady. she decorated the white house. she was the first person to do so. previous presidents had brought their own furniture and so forth and she was the one who decided that this needed to have a professional touch. she hired an architect to come in and help her designed the furniture and reception rooms. she was very instrumental in imaging his presidency. >> didn't she also cling to this in later years of poverty when her son ran for everything she had?
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and the issue of the dress, which may have been taken before the white house was burned, because it was packed for summer and mrs. madison took these things with her. a journal seemed to be published in white house history. [laughter] she wore her red dress over and over again. there is thought that that dress was made out of those curtains. >> what was the name of the book? [laughter] >> look at the early 19th century into the civil war, the turn-of-the-century, the industrial revolution, women getting the right to vote in 1920, the great depression, how did these women reflect the times in which they lived? >> i think eleanor roosevelt is a good example of that. she was into everything.
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she remained so even into the kennedy era. i was amazed to learn that she regretted that she had never gone to college. i have -- i was shocked she had never gone. she was home school and went academies. i suppose she had an equivalent of what we would consider a college education. on the cutting edge of every reform -- and one of the reasons was she did not have to stay at home. there was someone there to be the secretary and housekeeper for her husband. she was all over the place. i think she is a good example of the growing influence of the 1920's and women's growing liberation. the idea that women can get out into more -- that coincides with the women's suffrage era as well.
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>> i was going to say -- looking at the first lady, you can pretty much tell what is or is not happening with american women at any given point in the historical past. i think the present a particular window on the past. everybody knows the position of first lady. whether you know in particular first lady or not they become a wonderful hook on which to hang a lot of other historical events. i think they serve as a window on the past. >> if we have two microphones on each side so if you would like to come up to the microphone -- a brief introduction of who you are, where you are from, and a brief question.
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we will get to them momentarily. we would not be here today if it weren't for jackie kennedy. this would be one of those government nondescript office buildings. explain the story behind that and how she tried to redefine the role of first lady. >> the area was doomed to be high rise office buildings. you had commerce. this was to have a six story or seven story white model building designed by the people who did williamsburg. it was modeled for the time. the well-known separatist the architecture was a friend of the kennedys and both of the kennedys were upset about the white house losing its residential scale and its neighborhood.
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between mrs. kennedy and the president himself, they stirred the fine arts commission to resend -- to rescind permission to build this building. it happened right at the end of the kennedy administration. mrs. kennedy personally appear at the fine arts building and stirred everybody up for it. that is what happened. that is why we have lafayette square. >> jacqueline kennedy certainly was -- that was one of her causes, historic preservation. we see that through saving pennsylvania avenue as well as the white house.
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when she moved to new york she credited activities that save grand central station and a number of historic sites. that is one of her causes. >> and to think she was 32 when she came to washington and immediately set the white house to be a more appropriate setting. it looked like a sheraton hotel. [laughter] mrs. kennedy wanted antiques and things and it. she was persuaded against that. kennedy was very worried about that, creating a lot of trouble over furnishing. it proceeded with it and she got a crew -- she got a guru. it was a lollipop era. >> jacki was determined to be
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behind the scenes. a lot of people to not realize that the influence she had upon jack -- one of them was the idea of improving within's role in society as a whole. she was the one that taught him into establishing a woman's condition -- a women's commission. >> you talk about dolley madison, was there a 19th century counterpart that preserved the white house or make changes that has a lasting legacy? >> go-ahead. >> the garfields -- no, it was the hayes' first. they didn't know what to do with the white house, it was beat up and happy. they went to the library of congress and asked what would be more appropriate to have in a historic white house.
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he came up with this idea of a first lady's hall with portraits of all the first ladies. hayes was very excited and he commissioned mr. andrews, who became head of the corporate. he did another one -- the library commission paid $5,000 for that. and then he did another one of of dairy voluptuous dolley madison and the library commission said "no." the garfields did the same thing. the roosevelts insisted on using various artifacts. they took the lincoln bed and draped it up. they fixed the place -- mrs.
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herbert hoover was the first one who did a scarlet approach to it all. she had all of the objects in the attics and storage documented as to what they were when they came to the white house. that has all been a treasure to work with as far as a curator. >> the hoovers paid for their own entertainment. >> and they received many charitable things. they were immensely rich people. they have -- >> one of the women in the 19th century was very concerned about the size and the grandeur of the white house, mrs. harrison. she and her husband came into the white house on the anniversary of the presidency.
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it had been 100 years since washington had been inaugurated. they had a very large family and they found that as the present the -- the presidency expanded, the rooms in the white house were being taken over gradually by people who were assistance to the president or who were executive assistants and some white. she thought there should be a west wing. she had an architect drop plans for an expanded white house with a west wing and an east wing and gardens and one of the wings was supposed to be an art gallery because she thought we should showcase of american art more than was possible to do in the white house here. this renovation would bring the white house into the modern era. but one of her husband's opponents in the congress would not pass the appropriation.
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there had been all of this planning and all of this work and she had very strenuously lobbied through teas and luncheons. what a legacy of that was it did not happen then but there was so much discussion of it that when the roosevelt came in they picked up on those plans and redefined them. and then you get the west wing and the renovation of the white house. >> harrison's life never lived in the white house. james buchanan never married.
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when they never married, who fulfilled that role? >> they have hostesses the invited to come. interestingly enough, dolley madison was the hostess for thomas jefferson. if you didn't, a daughter would become law or a relative would be, or one of the wives of your closest friends in government. you had this. let me get back to this idea of renovations and changes. it is a recurring theme that you see all the way through. since dolly madison was the first one who lived in the white house, she was the one who was there when the british burned it down. the idea was getting it back together. you see this recurring theme and dc it strongly with some women rather than with others.
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mary todd lincoln wanted to clean up the mess that buchanan left there. she was stressed from congress because she was, "spending too much money" on redesigning. the jackie kennedy had the same idea of finding the original furniture and putting it in. i think that that is the theme we need to think of. >> and nancy reagan as well? >> yes. >> the whole idea of the first lady who images, in many image -- in many instances, her husband's administration. >> how did we get from the washington to the current first lady? >> dolly madison. [laughter] but that is the first one. >> sack retailer, who was president at the time when dali died -- zachary taylor, who was president at a time when dolley died, said she was the first lady of the revolution.
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>> after mrs. hayes, it is constant. >> let us get to some questions. please introduce yourselves. >> i work here at the white house historical association. my question for the panelist is was there a first lady who husband did not have a particularly successful presidencies but who is remembered for being a good first lady in spite of that. >> that is a good question. [laughter] >> this may be a first. >> maybe mrs. coolidge. it depends on how you feel about calvin. grace coolidge was a very
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beloved figure, particularly in washington. she had a very outgoing and affable personality where he was known to not say too much very often. she was his pr person because she got along with everybody and had a wonderful disposition. her nickname was "funny." >> mrs. hoover, too. she was president of the national girls scouts. she was very active with children. she was very sensitive to racial issues.
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she was out there, big time. the hoovers are remembered as the ones to give us the depression, probably not fairly. >> how she approached the job as first lady, how he approached the presidency back in 1923 when the party died -- for >> that i do not know. i think bill would probably know that better. >> to be frank, mrs. harding was considered class a in washington. she was rougher than most first ladies. >> how so? >> she was very outspoken. the hardings entertained in the white house with all of the booze on her. platas roosevelt said whiskey on the table and spittoon on the side. -- roosevelt said whiskey on the table and spittoon on the side. they were rough people but women
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idolized him. one of the first record its beaches was his dedication to the tomb of the unknown soldier. it is perfectly beautiful, that baritone voice. there were problems with florence. >> some many of the white house family members -- so many of the white house family members have been vilified for reasons that our political sometimes. people resented the fact that florence was a good manager and ran her husband's newspaper, ran his campaign -- and i argue that people might have not liked it but they respected her. they might have talked behind her back but then they did that with a lot of people. they did that to mary todd lincoln. it was not just a twentieth century thing, it is something you find through out. they talked about jackie kennedy. it is interesting to the kinds of things that happen.
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politics, as you know, it's ugly. i am going to tell the truth -- they talk about michelle obama. "she does not look like a first lady." in my experience, none of them look alike. the only difference is she is brown. that is significant. you hear about the publication more so than you hear about their success. >> let me turn it over to hear. >> i in 8, washington dc. -- i am nate, washington dc > talk about frances cleveland and the relationship between grover cleveland and his ward. he married her out of guardianship. she was emulated and admired. tell us more about that relationship and her role as a very young first lady.
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>> she was the jacqueline kennedy of her era. she was young, she was beautiful. when they first began courting people thought she was dating -- people thought he was dating her mother. he had asked her mother's permission to begin writing to her when she was in college. he sent her flowers and candy. it turned into a courtship. when it finally announced their engagement, i think it is such a wonderful commentary that when they would appear in public after they had announced their engagement come if there were a band at the occasion, they would strike up a song from the mikado. "he is going to marry young, young." [laughter]
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when she went to the white house she tried to protect the family from reporters and spying eyes. all these rumors into maybe the children were deformed or had some terrible disease, this is why nobody could get in to see them. grover had to issue a press release saying that wasn't the truth. france is herself met with the press and said she was so fortunate to be married to this wonderful man. would it be that every woman in america could have such a happy marriage. >> woodrow wilson also married in the white house. anybody else married while president?
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>> tyler did. his wife died and then a year later he married a woman his daughter's age. they had about a year in the white house together. the girl's father died in an accident aboard the steamboat. she went into mourning but she wasn't going to miss the parties. >> next question. >> i and emily porter, i am a graduate student at george washington. i would like to know now that the president's wife is running for president, she is actually going out there and campaigning for him -- is that in modern conception or is there someone from the past, 19th century or earlier, that we would have
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been surprised to know played a huge influence in getting her husband nominated. >> in the late 19th century, you had some new campaign techniques. one was the front porch campaign which had not been used in the earlier part of the 19th century. and you had a whistle stop campaign. the early front porch campaigns were garfield and harrison. what you find is that type of campaigning brings up the party's base full to the home -- brings the parties faithful up to the home. the wife becomes invisible partner on the ongoing campaign, even though at that point she, herself, did not become politicized.
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she is very much in her home. she was very much a part of her husband's campaign. you find a lot of women in the 20th century who were campaigning behind the scenes. certainly eleanor roosevelt was extremely active in the campaign. by the time you get to mamie eisenhower, she was the one who accompanied her husband to the west will stop -- to the whistle stop. that is a real watershed. after mamie, you cannot have a presidential wife who is not involved visibly in the campaign. >> harding had a front porch campaign, too. >> winded first ladies began to take platforms? the literacy campaign with
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barbara bush -- >> i would say ladybird johnson, "lets beautify america." >> and certainly jacqueline kennedy in raid -- in renovating the white house, which i thought was a brilliant stroke because she was still involved with the national home, so people are not in fear that she should be interfering with. it was so much based on scholarship and the decorative arts that after that it is very difficult to see a first lady without some kind of cause. >> about lady bird, i think "beautify america" was code for "look at the environment."
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it wasn't just the white house. i think she was really on the cutting edge of modern day environmentalism. >> she gave more than two hundred speeches on preserving the environment and taking environmental responsibility for the nation and the world. >> thank you. >> i am with morgan state university. you mentioned you believe a lot of the first lady's reflected what was happening in the country at the time. i am wondering if any of the first lady's, aside from their humanitarian or civic and efforts, to time to champion when menopause liberation struggles or were they active in any form from within's struggles?
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>> certainly in the 20th- century. betty ford brought the feminist movement to the national forefront and was unapologetically a feminist. before that, i would say lucy hayes championed temperance, which was very much a feminist issue in the 1870's and 80 '80s. if you were married to someone who was an alcoholic, it devastated your family. at a time when most women did not work, if you had an alcoholic husband or sun, it devastated your family. she was a temperance advocate. if you go back to mary lincoln, who was very much in favor of abolition, probably more so than her husband.
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>> my favorite is abigail adams. >> remember lincoln said temperance was going to be his next cause after the imagination proclamation. -- the emancipation proclamation. >> their influence as first lady? >> pat nixon was one of those who greeted the white house. she really built the collection that was there now. she shuffled them in the, the antiques and paintings and things like that.
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she acquired them in very large numbers. she could be remembered for that. >> it is very interesting, jackie kennedy is the one who is known for beginning that -- refurbishing the white house. but it was pat nixon who brought in more arts and antiques than any other first lady. she is hardly known at all. it was very interesting when we put up the first lady of the early '90s -- i had put a section in it of what mrs. nixon had done. i received a wonderful letter from julie eisenhower saying she was glad her mother was being recognized for what she did to the white house. >> another behind-the-scenes kind of person, you do not know how much to give on international level. -- how much she did on an international level. she travels on behalf of her husband to various countries throughout the world. she believes in public
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education. together the carters -- everybody was horrified by. it was the idea of bringing the common people's ideas to the board. it was ok to be a regular person whose child goes to public school. mrs. carter was quite active and is very rarely recognized for that. >> we conducted a poll, this is going to be very quick, i want to ask you a yes or no. should the first lady be paid? >> you are looking at me. i think not. i think she would come under all kinds of scrutiny. i do not know who would be her supervisor. i am sure somebody would. that would be very limiting to her role of being able to choose a cause or champion some particular avenues of approach to the first lady's role.
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>> i agree. >> the other question, should the first lady have a job outside of the white house? should they be able to hold a position. >> they can now. there are no rules. if you worked along with a husband and he or she became president, why would you do that? why would mrs. obama called back to the law firm or hospital in chicago? i do not think it is likely. >> i disagree. it depends on the situation. mrs. obama had already given up the law firm when she started having her children. that was a choice she already made. if she is already a professional woman, and i do not
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mean going to work in the local canteen, if she is already a professional woman and she wants to continue her professional activities she should have the option if she so chooses to continue to work in her profession. >> should be job of the first lady, the platform or roll, be a platform for politics? >> definitely. i think it already is. i do not think it to be married to a man for 20, 30, 40 years and have shared his career and his bed that she is not going to be involved. i cannot see how you can separate those. >> final question for each of you. if you could sit down with a former first lady and ask her one question, who would it be and what would you ask? >> you would do that. [laughter]
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i do not know. i cannot think of anyone. >> my favorite one of all time was lady bird johnson. i would have loved to have had a conversation with her. i would have asked why she didn't run for president. [laughter] >> i guess it would be jacqueline kennedy, for me. how did you stay married to that man with all that was going on in your marriage? [laughter] thank you very much. and the book is titled? >> what book? [laughter] it is called, "white house history." >> thank you all very much for being with us. [applause]
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>> monday night, first ladies, employment and image, featuring martha washington, her life before meeting george washington, being a general's wife. we will show you some of the places that influence her life, including colonial williamsburg, and philadelphia. be part of the conversation with your phone calls, tweets and facebook posts, live monday night eastern on c-span, seized a radio and c-span.org. >> if we turn away from the needs of others, the airline ourselves with those forces
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which are bringing about the suffering -- we align ourselvse with those forces which are bringing about the suffering crate art of the city in this country is nothing short of a public health crisis -- bringing about the suffering. >> obseity in this country is nothing short of a public health crisis. >> they serve as a window on the past to what was going on with american women. >> many of the women who were first ladies were writers, journalists. >> they are in many cases more interesting as human beings than their husbands. if only because they are not defined and consequently limited by political ambition. >> dolley was the most socially
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adept and politically savvy. >> she loved every minute of it. mrs. monroe hated it. >> she warned her husband, you cannot rule without including what women want and have to contribute >> you were a little breathless and there was too much looking down and i think it was a little too fast. not enough change of pace. >> he is probably the most tragic -- she probably the most tragic of all our first lady'ie. >> they never should have married picks she said i only decided what was important and present it to my husband -- >> they never should have married. >> she said i only decided what
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was important and went to present it to my husband. >> she transformed the way we look at these bugaboos and made it possible for people to survive and flourish as a result. i do not know how many presidents realistically have that kind of impact on the way we live our lives. >> walking around the white house grounds, i am constantly reminded about all of the people who ever lived there before and particularly all of the women. >> first ladies, influence and image, from martha washington to michelle obama, monday nights at 9:00 eastern on c-span, seat and radio and teeming life -- cspan radio and streaming live. >> i now like to introduce the
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moderator for our next panel. for more detailed information, you will find those in the program. martha is a professor at telson university -- at towson university. she is interested in the presidential press relations and white house communications operations. she is also director of the white house transition project, and non-partisan effort by presidency scholars to provide information on presidential transitions and white house operation to those who came into the white house in 2001 and 2009. she work with barack obama and
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john mccain and with the team representing president george w. bush. i refer your program for more information on her publications and finally, i can say she is a proud member of the board of directors of the white house historical situation. >> we have a wonderful here -- a wonderful panel here representing people who work in the white house for several administrations and people who of come with particular president and first ladies. through our discussion, we will get a sense of the environment that if first city operates in.
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if through our discussions we will get a sense of the environment that a first lady operates in. it is a difficult place to be. in some ways it is as beautiful. as the white house is it has many different roles. it is a museum, it obviously is a residence, it is a park, and it is a workplace. all of those combined -- for the first lady it gives opportunity for her and her husband, and also some hazards as they live their lives in the white house. it is also a place for children, a place to raise a family. with a first lady who has received no compensation for what she does, it is a difficult thing to say exactly what her role is. we will talk about the environment and talk about particular first lady's. among our panelists, they have been in the white house since the. when betty ford was first lady. -- since the period when betty ford was first lady. she does a great deal about the
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operations and the comings and goings. gary walters worked as chief usher from 1986. he came from a time when betty ford was first lady. he worked into the bush administration. susan sher was chief of staff with michelle obama. and that he is curator at the white house, a position that came about as a result of the work jackie kennedy did. we are going to talk about state dinner and use that as an
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introduction for all of us and how they are put on, where the first lady comes into it, all of the various parts of the white house that get involved. it certainly is a big event and one that involves everybody. gary, can you start as off? as chief usher you handled the residence staff. >> i would be glad to. the first notice of a state dinner or state visit comes from the state department. it usually goes through the social secretary of the white house. soon after the socialists a cap -- after the social security -- social secretary had a conversation with the first
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lady, he would lay out who, when, where, and how it was going to be about. there was a lot of planning. there is a lot of planning. usually these events are planned three, four, sometimes as much as a year in the future. sometimes a lot less time depending on world situations. but certainly the planning is intensive. and i think one of the things that most people forget about state dinners is they set a style for the white house from a social aspect and they also set a first lady style. we deal with things like the flowers, the table settings, what color dress is the first lady going to wear at a state dinner? because things get coordinated. i can remember the chief florist at the white house getting together with the first ladies
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and actually having a sample of the fabric and color and texture and planning flowers and the color of the table cloth and-how the table was going to be set, with what kind of decorations. but basically the first lady has a tremendous responsibility to set the tone for a state visit. i wrote down a number of different things that the first lady gets involved in, first through the social secretary and then things that she deals directly with the chief usher, with the which he was, and they -- with the chefs, and they include about eight different things. i've mentioned a few already, flowers, the first lady helps choose the flowers, whether they're in season or a particular flower that she likes, the decorations, not only the decorations at the table but what flowers or trees or plants are going to be put around the
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state floor for the official visit, what the decorum is going to be for the dinner, the kind of dress that's going to go ford -- go forward at the dinner, white tie, black tie, is it business? the color choices, i already went over that with the dresses and colors of fabrics and tablecloths. but there are a couple other things that usually fall in the first lady's aspect of what she is dealing with and that deals with a great deal of how the serve personnel are going to present themselves because quite frequently at these dinners we have individual aspects of foreign countries, the kind of foods they like, whether or not we have -- are allergic to certain -- allergies to certain food or food groups. and there's a myriad of details the first ladies need to go through, both personally and involvement with the chefs, like roland mesnier and the other chefs at the white house, the chief floral designer. she has to be involved in
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choosing the entertainment with the social secretary, what music is going to be played at the state dinner, what music will be played for the dancing afterwards. there are a myriad amount of questions that have to be asked of her and that she will have to make decisions upon to allow these dinners to proceed in a good manner. >> can you tell us about the menu, and make sure and talk about your desserts. >> yes. for a chef to be able to perform at the white house, to be involved with state dinner or any level dinner, it's fairly an honor, let me tell you. there's not a better place to cook or bake in the world. even though the money is not so good, it doesn't matter. you are having fun doing it, let me tell you. and the involvement with the menu, it was quite an other deal
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-- an ordeal to come to a final menu because we had many people who had their handiness, too, as they say. you would start with the basic menu, somebody would throw a menu out there and then, you know, you would come back, as gary said, people with allergies and also talking about allergies, people from different denominations, if you have kosher people at the dinner, if you have -- there's so many things you have to watch out, and then you don't have shell fish at some of these things. it's amazing you have to go through before you have a final menu. usually what i did, i waited until the chefs in the kitchen fight it out on the menu, then i put the dessert down. it was a sure bet for me because then all the kink had been
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worked out and i knew what it was going to be so it was easiest way. for me for the dessert, like everybody, you come to the white house, at first you don't know which way to go. most of the chefs come from hotel restaurant outside of places like these and you are going to continue what you have learned outside in the hotel and restaurant business. and i might say the white house, up to mrs. reagan's time, pretty much had their menus and dessert like you would any hotel and restaurant around the country. you can go back and look. you can find pies, chocolate cake, all these good stuff there. i don't think mrs. reagan cared for pie or chocolate cake. [laughter] like she said to me once, roland, we in california don't eat cheesecake -- actually, she did but that's another story. [laughter] so again, i knew.
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i knew right away that she was looking for something extraordinary. can i deliver? can i do it? i don't know. but i'm surely going to try like hell. and i did just that. and we had also a very interesting man in the white house those years who was the head decorator of the white house. and he was very close to the family. and he had a good eye for food and everything and colors and he did walk with us a lot and did help me a lot, i must say. so you get your sources from wherever you can. and i think this is when the dessert took off on mrs. reagan's at the white house in those years because she definitely wanted to take a different route. and if you studied the dessert, look at the dessert, totally different from what was done before, and i'm sorry to say after i left, it stunk. you want the truth, i'm giving you the truth. [laughter]
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you can research. but it was such a pleasure and i learned one thing -- mrs. reagan taught me a lot. she is a mentor to me. she told me in a day's work, you don't have eight hours, you have 24. she did teach me that. on certain occasions where she requested a special dessert that was so tedious and those years i was the only pastry person in the white house. there was no assistant. there was no part-time stuff. and she requested this special dessert. and we had two days before the state dinner, 140 people, i said to mrs. reagan, the dessert is wonderful and we have only two days left and that's when she corrected me. she said, you have two days and two nights.
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[laughter] and you know, it sounded very odd at first but is the best lesson i'd been taught then because the sky's the limit if you push yourself. and you can make it up and if you do make it happen, you feel like the king on the hill. and she is the one who made it for me. >> can you tell us about a particular state dinner or just how the process worked? >> as gary was talking, he said about the colors and matching the colors for the fabrics on the tables and the flowers and what dress the first lady is going to wear. i remember the visit of queen elizabeth ii in 2007, the first white tie state dinner the bush administration did in working closely with mrs. bush and the team around you and the social secretary. one of the most fun calls i got to make was to the queen's dresser and mrs. davis, the most
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wonderful personalities, what color is the queen wearing because you certainly didn't want the first lady of the house and then queen elizabeth to be in the same color. so that was one of the little items, as gary said. there's so many people and so many things that go into making this a beautiful and flawless event that is respectful of your guests but also reflective, too, of the president and first lady. we all want to put our best foot forward when working at the white house and this is a time to showcase everything that's perfect. >> and did the first ladies talk about a state dinner as being an event that was showcasing america? >> definitely. >> and what their goals were. >> definitely. >> can you tell us about that, susan? >> certainly. you know, the state dinners are really about diplomacy and the p
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-- the role of the first lady and her office are with the help, with great help from the state department. there's a huge amount of protocol involved. and there's no detail that is too small because what everybody does, one doesn't want to make a mistake. that would be insulting in a great way. so there are a number of details but it is important to remember it's about diplomacy and enhancing the diplomacy between the two countries. i was thinking about our second state dinner which was with mexico because of some of the personal touches. part of it was tablecloths that were mayan blue and flowers, there were roses and prickley pears that were beautiful. but my favorite, in the east room there was a dinner, a tent,
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wonderful entertainment by beyonce. but there were bouquets and baskets of flowers on top of the tent with monarch butterflies, just sort of floating -- looking like they were floating down. and the reason that is significant is that monarch butterflies fly from canada to the united states in the summer and then in mexico, and where they land for the most part is the birthplace of the president of mexico, president calderon. so that's meaningful. and these kind of touches make a difference. one other thing i would add is that we had a -- an outside chef who helped the terrific white house chefs, rick bayless, who is a very well known mexican -- well, his food -- he's american but his food is mexican.
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and people at the time questioned why we would do such a thing since obviously the best mexican food is in mexico. well, because we had had conversations, the first lady had visits mexico and was with the president and his wife and they had heard about rick bayless who is a chicago chef, and expressed an interest. and that's why we had that particular chef at that time. >> betty, can you tell us some of the research that goes into first setting up of state dinners and that first ladies might do? >> well, we do keep in the curator's office, records of a clipping file and historical information on entertainment over the years and the particular state dinners, and we were with a resource for many idea of roland's desserts which were themed to particular countries being entertained at a state dinner.
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and i also should say that we worked with the first lady's office, the first lady, the usher's office in terms of needing to order additional pieces of presidential china that would be used for state dinners as well. i know we had supplements made of the f.d.r. service and the wilson service to fill out those services because they had been depleted by breakage and so forth over the years. and in the year 2000 when the white house historical association offered to fund a new state service, we worked very closely with mrs. clinton in deciding about the colors, the designs that would go on the service, how those particular colors would look in the various settings in the state dining room or the east room, and i do remember mrs. clinton's mother, mrs. rodham was living in the house at the time and would come
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to some of these meetings about showing samples from the porcelain factory, and none of them seemed to be satisfactory. and she said, you know, i've been -- the bathroom of my suite is a beautiful yellow color, she said. and i think we should try that yellow color. so we got a sample of the wallpaper and sent it off to lennox, and they did some samples and worked out beautifully and that was sort of mrs. rodham's legacy i think in terms of state dinners. >> let's go to looking at transitions. the transitions into the white house that a family makes and the transitions out as well. because often for a president, he's been running for office for a couple of years, and he's a political person who is most
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likely been at the white house numerous times. but in coming into the white house, there are first ladies who really have not spent much time. now, we have an example with michelle obama, who was not familiar with the white house, whereas laura bush was very familiar with coming in with george w. bush during the george h.w. bush presidency. so can you tell us a little about your -- about, say, michelle obama's transition in and how she prepared for it? >> well, michelle obama is a serious student, but i have to say, i don't think there's any way one can really be prepared in the sense to really know what it's going to be like. you know, her husband had been a u.s. senator for a few years. but she and the girls had stayed in chicago where her whole family and support were.
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and the bush people were incredibly helpful and generous in -- and in particular about what the office was like and structure of all that. and the bushes were as well personally when the obamas visited. but i have to say there is no substitute for being there. so mrs. obama and the family were, you know, first at the adams hotel and then at the blair house and then came to the white house for coffee, as is the tradition, inauguration morning, and everyone went off to the inauguration and then what the white house resident staff does is just unbelievable where they all in that time when this inauguration is going on, they move, in this case the bushes out and the obamas in so they get back from the
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festivities of the parade, etc., and they walk in and now live in this new home. it's really quite startling. i don't think there's any amount of preparation that really can help one understand what this all means. >> anita, can you tell us about the bushes coming in and gary can tell us from the viewpoint of running the whole operation. how that transition works. but personally when she came in. >> sure. >> what she was thinking about. >> i wasn't working with her directly, of course, at that time in coming in in 2001 but i had been part of the transition team, the one that was set up in virginia before the election actually was finally decided and then once we were in the government space and we were planning from a personnel side of it. but one of the first visits that a president and incoming first lady gets is from gary walters,
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was a list of things they need to think about and be knowledgeable about when they come into the white house. i'll let gary talk a little bit about that. but 2001 was a very different experience than some past transitions. we didn't know for six weeks who the president of the united states was going to be. so no real official conversation could be taking place to prepare for a transition, certainly very different than 2008-2009 when in fact, you know, mrs. bush had everything packed up and almost out of the white house well before we left in january of 2009, and there were just a few itty-bitty little boxes that were in the china room that morning that needed to be moved out. and she was saying through the summer, it's not like we don't know we're going to leave. so she was very prepared. but coming in, it is incredibly seamless.
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the chaos that goes on that morning to unpack boxes and move in. the real first family is not aware of it which is so extraordinary which gary can talk a lot more about how the staff handles it. >> well, transitions are unique. there's a four-year transition when the presidents are running for re-election just as president obama just did. and the staff has to start gathering information on those people who are in the opposition party who are also expecting to be inaugurated on january 20. so i know when i was there, i started 6-8 months before the election, started gathering information on the candidates that were running and then once the political parties had their conventions, certainly, and the selections were made, i became more intense on the gathering of information on the nominee.
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and sometimes that's difficult. after four years, you have to be loyal to the family that's there. it is, and you used the right word, susan. it's their home that we're talking about. luckily i was involved in the home, not the political aspect of the white house. and some people forget that at times. this is a family that's moving in and out of the white house. and replacing their home, or establishing a new home. but when you have a transition after four years, you are wearing two hats. you're loyal to the family that's there and you want the staff to spend 100% of their time doing what has to be done for the family that lives there and the sitting president and first lady. but you also have to be preparing for what may happen in the future. but on inaugural day, and luckily when you have a second term, there's not much going on on inauguration day. everybody kind of takes a deep
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breath and lets things proceed. but when you're doing a transition from one family to another after eight years, the family that's there knows they're leaving on january 20 four years in advance. they have plenty of time to prepare themselves both mentally and to start moving their furniture, their furnishings out. when you have a four-year term, it's an entirely different ballgame. and the family that's coming in, once you have the election, if the family that's moving out is not going to be there any longer, certainly, the incoming president, there's a long conversation that goes on with both the first lady, first and foremost, but with the president, also. because not only does the home transition on inaugural day, the west wing, which is very symbolic of the presidency, one of the first things the press
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want to see on inaugural day is the oval office. what desk did the president choose, what paintings did he choose for the walls, what statutes are in there, what ones went out from the previous administration. there's a tremendous amount that goes on on inaugural day related to it, but at best five hours from the time the president and president-elect leave the white house, go down to the capitol for the inaugural festivities and come back for the inaugural parade in front of the white house. and one family is moved completely out, another family has moved completely in and when i say "completely" to the point of all their clothes are hung up, all their favorite foods are in the pantry, all their toiletries are in the bathrooms that they've selected, all the rooms have been changed to their desire. it's done in five hours. and they refer to it as chaos, i refer to it as organized chaos. we divide the staff up to two different groups.
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the group that was responsible for moving things out and the group that was responsible for moving things in. we only have two elevators at the white house. the president's elevator is the larger of the two. >> and it's tiny. >> so there's a lot of going up and down steps. there's a lot of elevator traffic and it -- luckily i just got to be the maestro that gave directions and the wonderful staff, including roland and the kitchen staff who were preparing for the events that are going to take place not only that evening but in the coming days as the new president welcomes in and thanks those people who helped him get elected. >> roland, i wonder if you can tell us about another aspect of it and that is about the human relationships that form that are close that when a president and his family leave, the impact that it has on the staff.
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>> yes, yes. it's a very strong bond between the family and the staff, because we really get to know everybody from the president, first lady on down, family, pets, name it. really the white house is a big family. that's what it is. and everybody is there for only one thing, one thing only, is to please the family. whatever they want, whatever they like, whatever the family -- not only the president but anybody on the family. so you don't really think about them leaving even a day before, two days before, even though you know they're leaving, they're gone or lost the election, whatever. but then when it hits you, it's bad, very odd, right here.
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and for me, i always said it's like funeral day. that's the closest thing i can describe it. because, you know, i don't know about all the stuff in the white house, but for me i've never been a party guy. i don't care what party they belong to, president and first lady of the united states. that's what count. that's who i served, they're all the same. so you really love those people. you'll do anything for them. i mean, anything. if you don't feel that way, i don't think you should be there, i really think. it's the same paying respect to the house is the same thing. it's a sacred house. everything goes hand in hand. so the morning of the departure of the family, we usually got it together in the state dining room, all the staff will be around the room and waiting for
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them to come in, the president, first lady, maybe child, like when chelsea was in the white house, she was part of it. and pets, too. you know, when mrs. bush, mrs. barbara bush, she didn't go nowhere without millie. millie was, i call her the presidential dog. she was. she knew how to act very presidential at all times. it was an amazing dog. and she knew who she was at all times. more than i did. [laughter] but let me tell you, those days where i dreaded those days. and even today, it brings emotion to me. i mean, although some of them were -- i remember when the
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clintons left, the president and mrs. clinton, they did eight years, that was all good. there was a great finish. so it was for the staff, it was very hard to see them go. when president bush sr. left, he had lost an election. that was supersad because of that. and you know, i never thought -- i never even thought that a president would cry, they're too big for that. they're too strong. but i've seen them cry, and really cry and that makes it double hard again. when i see president and mrs. bush come into the room to say goodbye, and president bush could not speak. he just cried. >> i remember it. that's it.
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no more. i can't go no more. >> i would like to say, too, it's as close to people that work in the residence are to the family, we also work very closely with their staff, particularly the first lady's staff and all of a sudden they're gone by noon on inauguration day. and you worked with these people for eight years and many of them become your friend. and some in the west wing as well, those we work more closely with. but then all of a sudden they're gone and the next day, there's a whole group of strangers coming in, they don't know you and you don't know them and it's a very difficult time, i think, much as roland expressed, saying goodbye to these families. but to them it's a whole new adjustment, it's a whole new job sometimes. >> the new people coming in sometimes scare the hell out of you, too.
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[laughter] i will tell you a very quick thing. when the reagans were coming in, the day of the inauguration, i was making raspberry sauce in the blender and the top of the blender came off and went all over my coat so i was ready to go wherever on the third floor, a room it could change and everything and the decorator, he was here, a short man i never saw before. he came and he look back to me, things are changing. i got scared. but does it. >> gary wants to chime in here. >> k makes it easy to be on the panelist. -- he makes it easy to be on the
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panel. he makes it so entertaining. it is the resident staff that continues to support every president that comes in and the staff around them. they go through these adjustments as well. we do not often think about that. he was talking about how difficult it was on that morning to see goodbye to the outgoing president and the first family. there was a happier time in 2009 when george bush and mrs. bush were there with their son and daughter-in-law to say goodbye once again under very different and happier circumstances after a successful eight years. that was a historical moment and something i will not forget.
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i needed a few minutes to compose myself as well. i saw on the south lawn the long-time resident staff member who has taken kiccare of the pe. he wasn't upstairs. he said, i cannot do it. it was too difficult for him. he would never go up to the historical meeting to say goodbye because it was so difficult. that struck me. >> one thing we do not want to forget in this mix is the fact that the staff has done this time and again. the majority of the president staff -- and resident staff stays throughout their careers. i had the same reaction. it is the most horrific day in
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our life. we have about five minutes to accept that and move on. there is another president and a family moving in. we will meet them and be their staff in five minutes. we have to turn the emotion it around immediately from this very sad departure on inaugural day. i remember i was standing as the last person to leave the white house was amy carter. everyone else had gotten in the cars and were waiting. she came up to me. it is a day i'll never forget. we have to turn back around immediately and get the new family moved in. the family thinks they have to come in and adjust to the
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executive resident staff. that is probably the latest mantra that the resident staff has to live by tom at no, it is not the white house way, but the family weight within the white house. -- way within the white house. i think the resident staff does it better because it has been through it before then the families do. these are people who work for the previous president. now you are working for me. how are you going to respond? how do i respond to you? we know in the resident staff when that has taken place. usually when you walk in a room and there is a conversation going on amongst family members or staff members, conversation stop. we are behind the screens.
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we are with the family all the time. the family is very reluctant to speak out openly. at some point, two weeks, six months, a year, number stations continue when you walk into the room. -- conversations continue when you walk into the room. there is a collective ah, we have made it. there is no greater grapevine than the white house staff. >> we had talked earlier about the get-togethers the resident staff has after the president and his family have left when the presidential libraries are opened. if you could briefly talk about those. >> many recent administrations
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have been generous and inviting to the opening of the library's. many have taken advantage of it and gone to them. it is like a family reunion. this recently, i started working there in the johnson administration. they had a wonderful reception by inviting all previous johnson administration staff to come. after all of those years that have gone by, 40 years, it was wonderful to see people that you work with all those years ago. there is that co-moderating -- radery that you work for a common sense that you are in it
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together in these crises or good times and bad times. you have fond memories of the people that you worked with over the years. >> looking at the white house, the organization has grown enormously that supports the president. also the organization has gotten larger support for the first lady. both anita need and susan served as chief of staff for laura bush and michelle obama. i wonder if you can tell us about the organization that he first learned he needs -- that a first lady needs. you both had titles not only as chief of staff of the first lady, but assistant to the president.
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how did those titles work together? >> there is no doubt that looking at the organization chart has clearly grown. the east wing staff has grown. that is a result of how much more is expect ited of the firsl ady and what she chooses to do with the lab form, which is a privilege to represent both at home at -- chooses to do with the platform, which is a privilege to represent both at home and abroad. there is pressure to do something with this opportunity. the staff gross to support the initiatives. -- grows to support the initiatives. how can they support the work of the administration?
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going to the point that they are not paid. they want to engage and really use the background and experience of often to city to their work -- and authenticity to the work. the first lady is not running a shadow government. she has the hardest unpaid job in the world. it is an extraordinary opportunity and privilege. as chief of staff, the starstruck or -- structure is built around that. in addition to the social office and the importance of the diplomatic role, it is the policy work. we have to think harder for being the first first lady to establish the role of the project director in the office
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of the first lady. -- thank carter for being the first first lady to establish the role of the project director in the office of the first lady. laura bush came into the white house in 2001. she had been typecast it as a shy, retiring librarian/teacher. who will you be? she said, i know laura bush pretty well so i will be her. [laughter] they were confident in their relationship as husband and wife and the partnership had in public and private life. she was going to take her interests from texas to washington, which is establishing the national book
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festival, which is now continuing. it is running on its 13th year. she had an interest in education that was a major initiative of the administration. they have the first state dinner for mexico. that changed everything. the pivot that not only our country had to make, but she had to make as well in having this role and lack form and what to do with it -- platform and what to do with it and how to be part of this effort. mrs. bush delivered a radio address in 2001. she talked on the plight of afghan women. the brutal treatment of women.
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that became an important cause for her. she recognized and tote -- she was asked about her role. after that radio address, she visited her daughter. women at the makeup counter can up to her and said, thank you for speaking out about afghan women. she realized that she had this enormous platform that was global. from that point forward and to this day is fully engaged in afghan women issues. we were able to fulfill an important desire she had, which was to go to afghanistan, which
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we did within two months of the second term. >> susan, can you tell us about let's move and the military family initiative? >> sure. mrs. obama new that being the first lady was an opportunity for a platform. when she got to the white house, she was not sure how that would lay out. during that election campaign, she spent a lot of time with military families. these were extraordinarily resourceful people who had never asked for help. she felt that when she got to the white house, this is an area where she could make it your friends.
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she started with the idea of a white house kitchen garden. she thought, it this would be great to have a conversation in this country with children and health. the country was ready to have this conversation. at some point she said to her staff, i would like this to be a campaign. i want this to be something that will be something i'm working on. it is something i'm sure she will be involved in for the rest of her life. we work for months. i was thinking about your question of the first wing. -- west wing. one of the most important roles is to coordinate things.
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it became a name, let's move. it was supposed to be at a community center, but there was one of those snowstorms. things were well carbonated with the west wing. somehow we realized that the president was going to stop by the press briefing room at the exact time where she was going to launch let's move from the state dining room. that was one of those things that we somehow realized -- we do not think that the president would want to step on the ursa lady -- first lady's initiative.
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[laughter] >> it was very popular and continues today through campaigns or the personalities and not just the general ways that people perceive them to be here they tend to have much stronger support. that leads to an election and reelection for the first lady to go out and campaign for her husband. it happened that both -- first lady's feel in the role of political support for their husbands. you can compare it with before they came into office and then when they worked in the reelection campaign. before they came into office, they did not have a lack of political experience and speaking on behalf of the
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president. they certainly did by the reelection. >> and terms of the popularity question, every problem in the world comes to the desk of the american president. by virtue of that reality, not everyone will be happy. your popularity will take a hit from time to time. the first lady does not have that escher. -- pressue. -- pressure. in terms of the political involvement which is a slightly different rushed in for laura bush -- different question for laura bush that was for michelle obama, the minute she started dating george w. bush, three- month agreement -- engagement, he was from a lyrical family.
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she became quite good at giving speeches. -- he was from a lyrical family. she became quite good at giving speeches. he famously talks about how they were coming back from a speech and he asked her, how is my speech? it was horrible. he drove the car right through the garage. [laughter] she was an honest ursa and. -- person. the spouse is the one person who can be most honest with you. they do get deeply engaged in deeply involved. it is important to see success of their spouse. by 2004, she was a formidable person in that campaign during a difficult time. the country was in two wars. very tough time.
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she got out there. her speech at the new york convention in 2004 she spoke to the human side of being the president of the united states and the tough decisions. i think it was an important moment. >> susan? >> i think i would agree with anita that one of the things the first lady can do to humanize the president and one of the things mrs. obama has always felt is that she was forced to campaign, but had to do it in a voice that was natural to her and honest. she did not want to campaign for kennedy because she did not really know him at all.
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in the president was working on health care reform, i think it was about three different speeches on the subject, but it was in the policy wonky sense. this was a campaign of a different sort. it was about breast cancer survivors and how continuing care is important and healthcare reform would help to get preventive care. when it came to the actual reelection campaign, it was sort of a no-brainer. she has always felt it was to support the administration. this is something she felt strongly about, the reelection. she gave many speeches. and the natural. -- and a natural.
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she likes to get out and about and meet normal people on the campaign trail. >> one of the things that we talked about, i asked you all to come up with a question for analysts.r finaellow i do not -- fellow panelists. let's get to it. everyone can chime in with answers. would you like to start us off? do you have a question on the role of a first lady? >> my head just -- my question --there is such an interest in first dladies. in terms of privacy, how do you draw the line in terms of
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releasing information or protect in the privacy of the first lady and family? >> great question. she is the protector of the family sanctuary. your trend have a private life in the public eye -- you are trying to have a private life in the public eye. it is not easy. people want to know about you, your family life, so striking a balance is difficult, but important. also who can be honest with the first -- and also who can be honest with the first lady. it becomes difficult when you have young children t.
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>> that is the area that mrs. obama feels strongly about and has consulted former first ladies. at clinton is someone who felt protective of chelsea clinton. she is a young and wonderful woman who grew up in the white house. having small children in the white house above a place where there are reporters all the time, how do you handle it if the girls want to ride their bikes on the south lawn? that is where the reporters find themselves when the president gives speeches. you have to come up with all kinds of rules. one is which the children cannot be photographed unless they are with one of their parents. that was one of those compromises.
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people have accepted for the most part that the girls are able to go to summer camp and go to school and have a more or less normal life. something that i think their friends and their friends families are great about in encouraging and supporting. the tug of war with the press is something that is inevitable. the obama snow that people -- know that you all are genuinely interested, yet these girls have a right to privacy. >> do have a question? >> i have a question for anita. how do you feel about guest che fs in the white house?
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[laughter] do you agree to bring certain guest chefs to the white house because the first lady tells you so or because you like having a guest chef in the kitchen? >> i think the first several times over the bush years, they would participate in some very big events, including the congressional barbecue. they brought their favorite texas barbecue chef to work with the kitchen and to share that. i also remember another time where they brought guests chefs in. mrs. bush made about 20 or 35 visits to the golf coast and the redevelopment. -- during the redevelopment.
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one of the chefs was at one of the events that we did in new orleans. it was an important message to the public that the gulf coast was coming back of the restaurant were reopening. there was an important reason to showcase the new american chefs and reasons why they would come. as long as the household staff and the kitchen staff is comfortable and sees it as an opportunity to share their experience with an outside chef, i think it could be fine and fun. >> susan? >> sorry if that is not the
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answer you wanted. >> the current white house chef s are fantastic. the obamas appreciate what they do. part of it, especially the state dinners, is to showcase the cooking. in every situation in which there are guest chefs, there is a collaboration. there's no a guest chef knows about how things are done. these collaborations showcase the best of american cuisine and a real collaboration between the guest chefs and the white house chefs. >> may i add something to that question mig? i need to.
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deep down, what does she really feel? you do not know what she feels. i'm talking about other chefs in the past. i take it as a slap in the face. i am the chef of the white house. i do everything for the family day in and day out. the day when i can shine i'm told that someone else will be coming? it is like me asking to be the president for one day. [laughter] why not? it's another job. let's put it this way -- i do not believe in that and i never will.
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this is my job. i would like to shine once in a while when it is my chance. we know that the guest chef comes only for one thing -- to promote their establishment. that is the only reason they come. if you tell them they cannot publicize, how many do you think would show up? [laughter] i needed to say that. [laughter] >> i would like to ask me that, what is the most difficult aspect of the role of the first lady? >> a couple of things. one of the hardest things is seeing the person you love the most being criticized.
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you have to be strong and confident in your relationship to know who your husband is and he knows who you are. one of the toughest is balancing the time of private and public requirement. it can be difficult. whether it is the end of four years or eight, you run out of time to do all the things you wanted to do. >> gary? >> i have a question for martha. what influence have you found for that transitioning activities? dy willink the worst ladfirst la
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be responsible for setting up the home and the family. there is so much that goes up in setting up the west wing and appointments and policy that a president one not have time to be spending on how the home is going to be created. i think that first lady has a it for her and she has to learn how to bring her family in. particularly with a young family like michelle obama had. that is what they have to focus on. before hand, they can start thinking about their issues as both recent first ladies have done. but the physical move is
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something that they will have to handle. maybe he is going to be involved in the oval office in the setting of the oval office. as george bush proudly talked about every item being procured for the white house and why he chose the pictures and it was not just his choosing. >> do we have time for questions? >> do i get to ask mine? [laughter] of the five administration the work for, what was the one time that you felt you were able to shine your craft the most? the one favorite? >> it is quite difficult to go there.
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at the beginning i can dwell on everyone else learning to sing in the white house. i really could see what she wanted. she said that this is a private home. this is our home. we will showcase the best we can do. what better place to showcase the best? the best furniture, the best wallpaper, the best carpet. it is the people's home. this is why they embark into making those spectacular desert all the time. the funny thing is that after the reagans the part of the house, it continued.
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every a ministration after that gave me carte blanche to do that. they knew, somehow, i would produce a dessert that they could be proud of. also at the time we were already doing some diplomacy with the desert, by introducing the desert with design that reflected the inviting head of state. that is why they let me do all the way to transition of food. if you remember, the food way back, every course was served on a big platter, like a desert. but then that went away. it went more to the restaurant service. but the desert for never touched. -- was never touched. during the clinton that change. mrs.
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clinton [indiscernible] there is a reason for that. she must have liked that, or she would have said no more of that. [laughter] i assumed. in -- i am very proud of that. it remained so until my last day. we made many desserts for the first family that touched them. i remember when george w. came to the white house, the first governors dinner that we were going to have, i wanted something texan. i wanted the governor to know who the president was, a texan. so, i came up with a design called tumbleweed. if you have been in texas, you have seen them. that is what the desert was,
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tumbleweed. mrs. bush did not care for it. [laughter] but president bush loved it. >> of course. >> i remember we were discussing these things and mrs. bush said go ahead. things like these make the family very proud. >> they had one problem with the first ladies and one problem with him, never do the same dessert twice. they were always different. >> i wanted something very interesting. we did not repeat, we did not. that was the entire shop. the head of state would come in and i would beg my staff to throw the ideas and to the basket.
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we said the best ones would flow and that is what we will do. i tell you what, i know that mrs. reagan sometimes said you cannot serve that. it will fall on the lap of a lady. i would tell her, it would not. [laughter] i remember we had a giant pear. i was on my knee, explaining the desert. when i explained to her that it would not fall, she grabbed it so that it stop shaking. i said -- ok, you win. [laughter] >> on that note, let's go to some questions.
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>> i am from the museum education program of george washington university as well. my question or comment is during my lifetime is possible that there will be a first gentleman. what are your thoughts on the influence of the first lady's of what that role would be? >> i will say the became close, we came very close in 2008, right? i think the white house is very resilient. although that would have been different, as that would have been a former president. a very different situation. but the fact that potentially a man was getting closer to that, i think the white house is a very resilient and flexible place that will adapt to all kinds of changes.
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just as staff is asked to renew family, i think that is the remarkable thing about the white house. >> i had a brief conversation with dennis thatcher when he came to the white house. he was wandering around the state floor, she was speaking to the president. i told him some of the history of the white house. i made very sure that he saw the area of the white house [indiscernible] [laughter] he was very engaging and i asked him what his role was. he says that his role is whenever she wanted. >> ok. i think that there are ways where it will have to change. i think that one of the issues is about working outside the home.
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>> chemistry professors, there are ways in which there are men who probably do not want to play the traditional first lady role. it is right that the white house is resilience. there will probably be a lot of questions asked. >> my name is heather and my question is for [indiscernible] the bride. the president bush library will be opening soon. i want to know how mrs. bush's legacy is being preserved? >> thank you for asking. the library is opening on the 25th of this year. mrs. bush has been share of the architecture committee, landscape design committee, interpretive planning committee.
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she has a great deal of influence on what it will look like. this will be their life's work for the rest of their lives for the bush presidential institute. we did a lot of working with other libraries. the first lady's role is generally relegated to a tiny area of the library. this will not be the case this time. her work will be integrated throughout from the moment that you step in to the moment you leave the library. she is very proud of that. he is very proud of that fact. thank you for asking. >> i would like to check -- i would like to thank our panelists. >> you can see here the wonderful support system that first ladies have, whether this
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is the resident staff or the staff that comes with them, they all former wonderful support structure. thank you. [applause] >> thank you for an en lightning session and tricky for making this a special occasion at our new national center for white house history. on your way out, there will be a bag we do not want to forget. the most recent addition of whitehouse history. i think you will find
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particularly interesting, it is on whitehouse fashion. in cooperation with c-span and the association, a special addition for the original series of our first lady's book was produced. that is also in the back. you are welcome to pay a visit as you leave the foyer. you are also welcome to take a tour of the c-span bus and learn about first ladies. thank you again for making our inaugural session very special. [applause] >> monday night, but first program in our new weekly series, first ladies, featuring martha washington. her life before meeting george
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washington, being a general's wife, and studying the precedents for the role of first lady. we will show you some of the areas that amateur including one was hurt -- that iraq was her including williamsburg. live monday at 9:00 eastern. our website has more about the first ladies, including a special section, welcome to the white house. it chronicles life in the executive mansion during the tenure -- the tenure of each of the first ladies. we have comments from noted historians and thoughts on michelle obama from all of first lady throughout history. c-span.org/products.
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>> c-span, created in 1979, brought to you as a public service by your television provider. >> next, from the national governors' association winter meeting, a discussion on employing people with disabilities and what state can do to improve cyber security. after that, a conversation with supreme court justice ruth bader ginsburg. colorado nation's governors are helping their annual winter meeting this week in washington, d.c. the first panel was about employing people with difficulties -- was about employing people with disabilities. remarks by this year's national governors' association chair, jack markell and mary fallin